A mortar and pestle are one of the most straightforward contraptions used in the kitchen. Since ancient times, it has been used by several cultures to grind herbs and spices, for medicinal and cooking purposes. A mortar and pestle consist of a heavy-bottomed bowl and a heavy elongated pestle which is used to grind substances. The end of the pestle can be rounded or flat. 

It is crucial to maintain the surface of the mortar and pestle because it can be quite expensive to buy. If taken care of, it will last for years before needing to be replaced. To understand how to take care of a mortar and pestle, we must first learn the different materials that are used for making one. 

Materials used for making mortar and pestle

  • Wood 

Wood is one of the most popular materials used for making mortar and pestle since it is lighter than those made of stone or ceramic. Bamboo is similar in texture to wood and is also used sometimes. 

  • Stone

This is the most common material used for making mortar and pestle. Granite and marble are the other popular stones used. 

  • Ceramic

Ceramic is a popular choice for making mortar and pestle. It can be quite heavy but is not as fragile as glass or porcelain. 

  • Glass

Glass is rarely used to make a mortar and pestle since glass is delicate and might shatter upon putting too much pressure. But porcelain is a popular material used for the making of a mortar and pestle. It is usually used to grind up medicines or delicate substances. 

  • Metal 

Metal is usually not preferred when it comes to a mortar and pestle. It is because different metals can have a chemical reaction with the food that is being ground in a mortar and pestle. It can also alter the taste of the food. However, it is the cheapest material and lasts a long time. 

Now that we know what materials are used to make a mortar and pestle, we can talk about how to keep them clean and shining. 

Different types of mortar and pestle

  • Wood and bamboo

For mortar and pestle made out of wood or bamboo, the first thing to do after buying a brand new one is to prime it. It is done by wiping the surface of the mortar and pestle with some neutral-flavored oil like vegetable oil or olive oil. It builds a barrier between the food and the wood. 

For cleaning, only a wet cloth should be used. Soap should never be used on wood and bamboo as it will destroy it. Whenever you see that the mortar and pestle looks a little dull, rub it down with some oil to keep it looking shiny and new. 

  • Granite and marble 

These are the most common materials used for making mortar and pestle. Only mild unscented soap should be used to clean stone ones. It is because the harsh cleanser can easily permeate into the stone and change its composition. Avoid using soap until it is very filthy. Use paper towels to clean if it has only been used lightly. 

To clean a stone mortar and pestle, pour two tablespoons of rice grains into the mortar and grind it till it becomes dark in color. Keep adding more rice, till the resulting rice powder is white. After that,  wash with water and your stone mortar and pestle will look new and shiny. 

Granite or white marble is prone to staining quickly., especially if it comes into contact with something acidic or oily. Therefore, rinse off the food immediately after the grinding is done to avoid staining. Make sure to rinse thoroughly to remove soap residue. Then dry completely to prevent staining from the residual water. Never use any acidic substance or hard scrubber to clean.  Scrub using dry rice grains. 

  • Lava stone or volcanic rock

A mortar and pestle made out of lava stone or volcanic rock (known as molcajete) is a prized possession of many home cooks. These are often handed down to generations. Because they are so rare, they need to be cared for properly to keep them looking gorgeous for decades. The first rule to cleaning is to never use soap on this. The material is porous and will absorb the detergent. Only use warm water and a kitchen brush to clean. After rinsing, make sure to completely air-dry the lava stone or volcanic rock before storing it away. If it is stored away while still damp, it will grow mould.  

  • Ceramic and glass

The best way to clean a ceramic or glass mortar and pestle is to use warm water and soap. This will keep it looking clean and shining. However, make sure not to use excessive pressure while cleaning. 

  • Metals 

To clean mortar and pestle made of any metal, use warm water, soap, and a hard scrubbing brush. Since metal is tough it can handle all the scrubbing. The harder you scrub, the more debris of food particles will be rinsed off the mortar and pestle. The shine will easily tell you that it is completely clean. 

Whether you use a mortar and pestle regularly or occasionally, with proper care, it can last a long time. Keeping it shiny and looking new is the best way to ensure that it is thoroughly clean.

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